Tidy up

23 October 2013 Tidy up

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Hank an old flame of Heather’s appears and wins the fishing contest. Buth Heather is not happy at being stood up for a cod. Priceless
Sort the books, tidy up give the jam jars away
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today I win get just under 400, 399 though perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.

George Ortiz
George Ortiz was a connoisseur whose unrivalled collection of ancient objets d’art earned both admiration and controversy

George Ortiz Photo: GAECHTER&CLAHSEN
6:40PM BST 21 Oct 2013
George Ortiz, who has died aged 86, was a collector of antiquities endowed with a genius for picking out the best pieces.
Small in stature but a giant among collectors, Ortiz had huge energy and intellectual curiosity. The range and quality of his objects were astonishing — a lateral view of the ancient world that encompassed everything from Sumer, Babylon, Egypt and Greece all the way across to African masks. It was a collection that he had begun in the 1950s, when André Malraux’s Musée Imaginaire had started to make cross-cultural relationships fashionable; George Ortiz, however, applied his own brilliant eye to create a distinctive assemblage.

Exhibition of Ortiz’s collection at the Royal Academy in 1994
He was born in Paris on May 10 1927 and brought up in a grand house on the Avenue Foch. His parents were Bolivian and his grandfather was the celebrated “Tin King” Simon Patino. George’s mother, Graziella, was a collector of silver and the house was furnished with superb French decorative arts.
George learnt about craftsmanship from his parents and, after a spell at Harvard, it was in Greece in 1949 that he found his life’s quest. He shed his fashionable Marxism and devoted himself to collecting great works of art: “I hoped that by acquiring ancient Greek objects I would acquire the spirit behind them.” Greek art remained at the core of the collection — particularly the transitional moment between archaic and classical.
It was two brilliant dealers who introduced Ortiz to the other great theme of the collection: African art — Charles Ratton in Paris and John Hewett in London . Hewett enjoyed what he called “George moments”, when the collector’s passion burst forth with the force of a hurricane. One such moment was in 1967, when Hewett invited Ortiz to dinner and put a Benin bronze head on the table. The price was a then astronomical £20,000 — but Ortiz bought it and named it “Bulgy Eyes”. He believed that it was the strongest work of art he owned.

Ortiz’s favourite piece, a Benin bronze he called ‘Bulgy Eyes’
George Ortiz moved to Geneva the following year and four years later acquired a beautiful 18th-century manor which he lovingly restored over the next two decades. In October 1977 his daughter, Graziella, was kidnapped for ransom. She was returned and the kidnappers were eventually caught. A year later Ortiz held a heartbreaking sale at Sotheby’s of part of his tribal art collection to cover the ransom. It revealed to the world the quality of the collection and the brilliance of the Ortiz eye.
He had a wide circle of friends. Bruce Chatwin, who nicknamed him “Mighty Mouse”, described an official trip to Soviet Union in 1968 to visit museums. Chatwin’s highly coloured account describes smuggling Ortiz into the group as “Dr Ortiz” of the Basel Museum, a disguise that evaporated at the Hermitage in St Petersburg when he became over-enthusiastic and offered them his art collection if they appointed him director of the museum. The visit was also memorable for the first of his skirmishes with archaeologists who believe that the artefacts have meaning only in context and have no value for themselves – an unbearable view for Ortiz.
In 1993 the Ortiz collection was indeed exhibited at the Hermitage. It was also displayed at the Royal Academy in London in 1994, and the Altes Museum in Berlin in 1996. The collection of small and perfect pieces from across so many civilisations had enormous impact. Ortiz’s perfectionism was revealed in the lighting and display but above all in the profundity of the objects.
The applause was not, however, universal. The archaeologist Lord Renfrew severely criticised the London show for indirectly “financing the large scale looting which is the ultimate source of so much of what he is able to exhibit”.

George and Catherine Ortiz in Afghan costumes lent by Bruce Chatwin at the Bal Oriental in Paris given by the Baron de Rede in 1969
Ortiz was deeply upset by the attack and it confirmed his position as a passionate defender of the rights of collectors against increasingly militant archaeologists. When in 1995 the Unidroit convention categorised works of art as national patrimony, Ortiz argued for cross-border movement, on the grounds that art is the shared heritage of mankind.
Ortiz always claimed to be an instinctive collector. He was fond of saying that “one can learn too much and feel too little” although this did not do justice to his considerable scholarship. A visit to the Ortiz collection was something that nobody ever forgot. For Ortiz, art was the answer to Gauguin’s question: ‘Who are we, where have we come from, and where are we going?’
He married, in 1964, Catherine Haus. She and their three sons and daughter survive him.
George Ortiz, born May 10 1927, died October 8 2013


Isabel Hilton asks (Report, 18 October) what’s in the nuclear energy deal for China. Well, China might get a major share of the UK nuclear market, which over time could equate to at least 25% of the total electricity generation market. The huge benefit from overpriced electricity on this scale flowing to the Chinese would make the recent price rises at British Gas look like a free gift offer.
Surely the only effective defence against this situation is to nationalise the Hinkley nuclear station project to get back control of nuclear electricity pricing and technology for the UK. This would enable the UK to set nuclear electricity prices at an appropriate level. The recent flotation of Royal Mail has shown there is plenty of money around to raise a government bond. The Royal Mail funds would make a nice down payment. A sum equivalent to the proceeds of the sale of UK nuclear technology to Hitachi would also be useful. Is it too late to come to our senses?
John Pickering
Labour Finance and Industry Group
• George Monbiot now has to face the daunting implications of his commitment to nuclear power (Comment, 22 October). The 92.5p guaranteed electricity price for 35 years, double the existing price and probably higher than the cost of renewable electricity by 2023, when the first power is generated, seems an economically reckless commitment – a grim legacy for our children and grandchildren. There is also the less publicised Treasury 65% guarantee of the £14bn construction finance, a further apparent guarantee for construction-cost overruns, compensation if EDF closes Hinkley early and an open-ended public guarantee to deal with the waste – adding to the 80-year £80bn clean-up costs we are already saddled with. This begins to look like a “nuclear at any price” Faustian pact, but it is the true measure of the cost of nuclear. If the government could have had a cheaper deal, it would have. The only hope of some economic rationality is that the state-aided distortion of the power market by this preferential deal will be declared illegal by the EU.
Andrew Broadbent
CES Ltd Economic and Social Research
How appropriate that you should highlight the rise in popularity of offal (Marrow becomes the bone idol of domestic cuisine, 19 October) as we approach World Tripe Day, 24 October. The Tripe Marketing Board is using the event to launch the 2014 Tripe Diary in celebration of this noble foodstuff. While there are some who quibble with renaming tripe “Lancashire calamari”, there can be no doubt that there has been a shift in the demographic of tripe-eaters: the board estimates that there has been a 0.07% increase in people aged under 85 who are not repulsed by eating tripe.
Nick Broadhead
• Jan Wiczkowski (Letters, 19 October) points out that the three longest Booker prize winners were all written by women. But so was the shortest – Penelope Fitzgerald’s Offshore. It’s just the men in between who were more average.
Jem Whiteley
• I don’t mind so much that Paul McCartney looks like Ken Dodd (Letters, 22 October). I mean, don’t all Scousers look and sound alike? What worries me as a Mancunian is that he’s started to look like the bard of Salford, John Cooper Clarke.
Myles Flynn
•  Any chance of you giving letter writers the opportunity to sign off with their Twitter name? I would love to follow some of your letter writers who make thoughtful, insightful comments that are in great contrast to most politicians and professional commenters.
Jackie Schneider (@jackieschneider)
Morden, Surrey
• One much neglected Old Etonian (Letters, 19 October) is HM Hyndman, the magnificently hirsute founder of British Marxism. It is time that Eton recognised its historic role as an educator of revolutionary socialists. That Hyndman also played cricket for the MCC may help.
Keith Flett (@kmflett)
• Instead of the headline “Wanamaker bemoans shortage of female roles” (22 October), why not have “Wanamaker protests…”? She’s not a moany old woman; she’s an angry older woman.
Sioned-Mair Richards (@Efrogwraig)

Oxfam is well-intentioned but wrong about using its funds to support food banks (Report, 16 October). The advocates of the “big society” will be delighted. It’s a big step towards the institutionalisation of food banks, as in the US. I have cancelled my subscription to Oxfam because I am not prepared to have my money used to underpin the callous treatment of the weakest in our society by this government. Instead, I am prepared to join with other citizens who are appalled at the state of this country, the sixth richest on the planet, and who are opposed to food banks as a way of providing for people’s basic needs. We should demand that the government pay for the existing food banks from public funds for the next year, after which they will be closed and the government will have to face up to its responsibilities and look after those in desperate need.
Tony Mitchell
• More and more people are relying on food banks, while at the same time Tesco and other stores are throwing away a vast amount of fresh food each day (Report, 22 October). This makes no sense on an economic or social level.
Andy Buchan
Caterham, Surrey
• Re all that ready-peeled and chopped fruit and veg in airtight, ungreen plastic: nature knows what it is doing when it preserves itself in its own packaging – as soon as it is peeled and chopped it decomposes much more rapidly and begins to lose its nutritional content. This food is great for the compost bin, but not great for our children.
Ailsa Johnson

Your columns have yet to adequately reflect the scale of the disaster for the co-operative movement that is represented by the failure of the Co-operative Bank (End of an era as Co-op loses control of bank, 22 October). The bank that likes to say no to ethically dodgy investments was happy enough to sell its own customers useless PPI insurance on a scale comparable to the worst of the big banks. Then it got involved in just the same kind of hubristic expansion and borrowing plans, leading to the fatal decision to take over Britannia (itself a mutual hijacked by the money men), and now we have the downfall after overweening pride, the sale of the Co-op Bank to hedge funds.
There’s been not a single communication throughout all of this as to what has been going on to the bank’s customers, nor to members of the Co-op Group. As a customer of 40 years’ standing I shall not remain with this bogus outfit and the “ethical trading” logo the hedgies are, apparently, keen to retain. I urge all of the other customers who feel equally duped to vote with their feet. Then perhaps one day we can start again and found a genuinely co-operatively owned institution, one that this time must be democratically controlled by its members.
John Crawley
Beckermonds, North Yorkshire
• Nils Pratley is perfectly correct in describing the Co-op Bank’s change of direction as breathtaking (Business analysis, 22 October). Those of us who feel that there is a place in retail banking outside big finance (many see banks as a utility provider in much the same way as we regard water companies and energy suppliers) will recognise the truth in the old saying that “If you want a job done properly, then you must do it yourself”.
We should therefore look at the credit unions, perhaps better described as community banks, in our localities and, by increasing their memberships and therefore their funds dramatically, allow them to assume responsibility for our banking transactions, such as standing orders and direct debits. We can use this opportunity, provided by the failure of the Co-op Bank’s management, to reward them for taking our breath away by taking our money away and by boosting the principles of true co-operation manifested in the function of true community banks.
John Connolly
Director, Moneytree & GLEN Credit Union, Redcar, Cleveland
•  I am shocked that the takeover of the Co-op Bank, essentially by a pair of carpetbagging “vulture funds”, seems to be occurring with hardly a murmur of protest. I and many other customers will certainly take our custom elsewhere. I have no confidence that a hedge-fund-owned Co-op Bank will continue its current ethical stance. Surely the bank and its customers (including the Labour party and many unions) could find an alternative way forward to the dismal prospect of control by predatory hedge funds.
Ian Healey
•  The Co-operative Bank’s chief executive, Euan Sutherland, saying “customers should not be concerned about the changing structure of management” and boasting that the “rescue had been achieved without the need for a taxpayer bailout” says it all. The wrong people have been running the Co-operative Bank in recent years. The ethical basis of the bank is its loyalty factor, and a loan from public funds, repayable over time, would have been a far better way forward.
Since 1969 I have been happy to put my (modest) funds with the Co-operative Bank. Now it feels that the financial world has come up with the worst possible wheeze to get back at those of us who have never quite signed up to capitalism – make me (and 4.7 million others) give our money to two US hedge funds. Yuck!
Richard Stainton
Whitstable, Kent
• The Co-operative Group is to be congratulated on establishing an independent review led by Christopher Kelly that “will assist in identifying lessons to be learned to strengthen not only the bank and the group, but the co-operative business model generally”. Co-operative members and Co-operative Bank customers are “being encouraged to provide input to the review by submitting a perspective or evidence” via comments@thekellyreview.co.uk.
David Smith
Newport, Gwent

Prompted by Nick Clegg’s stated desire to compel all free schools to follow the English national curriculum, I write as the chair of trustees for a newly established free school in Culham, Oxfordshire. As well as a planned specialisation in science, our initiative includes the bilingual teaching of children from age five in English and either French or German. We feel this will help to address the “languages gap” that has been identified in the UK in recent public debate. We follow the European Schools’ curriculum, modified to a UK setting, because our educational programme does not fit well within the national curriculum. We are also seeking accreditation as a European School. We employ only qualified teachers. We are disappointed and mystified by Mr Clegg’s remarks. Surely, it must be possible to accept the principle that there is more than one path to a good education, while maintaining high standards? It seems odd for a Liberal Democrat to feel that a little pluralism is such a dangerous thing.
Professor Andrew Parker
Chair of trustees, Europa School UK
The fate of the mentally ill is being adversely affected not only by mental health service cuts (Report, 16 October; Letters, 18 October) but by broader societal circumstances too.
Poor people develop mental illness earlier in life and have longer durations of untreated illness. Individuals with mental disorders are at increased risk of underemployment and homelessness. They are more likely than those without such disorders to be arrested in similar circumstances, and remand is more likely when lesser offending is associated with mental disorder.
These adverse economic and societal factors, combined with the stigma of mental illness, constitute a form of “structural violence” that amplifies the effects of mental disorders in the lives of sufferers and their families, and effectively excludes many from full participation in civic and social life.
Depression is the world’s leading cause of disability, affecting more than 350 million people. Each year, a million die by suicide. Globally, fewer than 50% of people with depression receive treatment; in some countries that figure is under 10%.
The solutions to this problem lie not only in providing decent mental health and social services, consistent with human dignity, but in generating political will to address the broader social circumstances that too often constrain the mentally ill to live lives shaped by stigma, isolation and denial of basic human rights.
Dr Brendan Kelly
Department of adult psychiatry, University College Dublin
• Well done, Professor Gould (Letters, 18 October) for highlighting the lack of mental health care beds. In the London borough of Haringey there is not one bed available, nor are there any day care units.
I know of a woman who was advised that the nearest day care available was at Chase Farm, an hour away by ambulance. She felt too ill to make that journey and eventually, after a serious fall, was admitted as an emergency to the North Middlesex hospital in a general medical ward. Attempts to transfer her to proper mental health facilities at Chase Farm hospital have been thwarted by the lack of a spare bed there. Not only has there been no adequate care in the community for this woman, there is now no suitable care for her in hospital.
It is time this government’s shameful attitude to the care of the mentally ill was dragged out into the daylight.
Dr Andy Strouthous
• In Leeds a study by the monitoring group Leeds Hospital Alert showed mental health patients had been sent as far away as London and Durham; 241 were sent out of the area in 2012. A picture emerges of patients crisscrossing the country at great personal cost to them and their families, and great financial cost to the NHS. When a Leeds MP recently asked for information about this, he was told the Department of Health does not collect statistics on it. There needs to be a co-ordinated national drive to ensure that mental health patients can access good treatment in their own communities.
Jeremy Pritlove
Leeds Hospital Alert
• If the health secretary wants to help issues of loneliness (Report, 19 October), he could make sure councils have enough money to reinstate evening classes, libraries, lunch clubs and the like.
Michael Peel

Disadvantages in early life, like losing a parent, dyslexia or learning difficulties, can inspire people to do great things. Except when they don’t, in which case the disadvantaged people can be much worse off than the people who have not had the disadvantages. These things I knew, in a general way, so why do I need three pages of Malcolm Gladwell (Little victories, 11 October) solemnly explaining them to me as if the idea that adapting to a setback can help people go far was shocking? I pored carefully over his article, thinking that anyone given so much space in the Guardian Weekly must have something to say, but couldn’t see any information that went beyond the brief summary I’ve just provided in this letter.
The one thing I hadn’t known was the speed of David’s rock as calculated by an Israeli army officer (either the Israeli army has special slingshot-related expertise or other armies have better things to do). Gladwell treats this old legend with the plodding literalism of a creationist working out the seating plan for Noah’s ark. No culture, no tradition applies to David and Goliath – for Gladwell, it’s just another anecdote to pad out his rather uninteresting thesis.
The next time he’s casting around for an old yarn to support some bit of everyday observation being elevated to the status of a breathtaking Gladwell breakthrough, I suggest he tries the Emperor’s New Clothes.
Floyd Kermode
Melbourne, Australia
• The statistics given on children having lost a parent remind me of my child’s response to the highway fatalities statistics: if 30% of all fatal highway accidents are due to drunken drivers then 70% are due to non-drinking drivers: may as well drink. How much time, energy and money were spent researching this type of knowledge?
Further on in the article: is the explanation of the David and Goliath myth another of those fancy research programmes? The author must know that in that era lords and great warriors did have attendants carrying shields or extra arms for them and I do not think they were all half-blind. If Goliath had all the physical disabilities mentioned, how could he have been that great a warrior? That type of explanation of myths is similar to the interpretation of the Oedipus myth by Freud.
I am surprised the article was not followed by some type of comment.
Roger E Pewzner
Paris, France
• The theme from Malcolm Gladwell’s essay on dyslexia took me back to Portland, Dorset: the Isle of Slingers. Aside from confusion over the popular terms slingshot and catapult, the sling is indeed a devastating weapon, comparable with the longbow. Its use was taught to me by a friend, an islander of many generations.
Chesil Beach, with perfectly graded, almost-spherical granite and quartzite pebbles, is a convenient mine for sling ammunition, ancient caches of which are found on the rocky eminence.
Correcting a minor point: anyone whirling a sling around is either on a horse, or running or perhaps using a bolas. The centripetal force merely holds the projectile in place until the final throw. As in golf, or launching a spear with a woomera, a sling fires the stone in one smooth, powerful arc, like a tennis serve: no whirling.
We practiced our aim on the beach; at 50 metres our small pebbles would explode into powder against the sea wall. Goliath stood no chance.
Andy Jenner
Nudgee, Queensland, Australia
Some migrants ignored
Your article Migration debate ‘needs to change focus’ (20 September) features the new World Migration Report 2013 and its observation that global debates tend to focus on migrants in the north, while not paying sufficient attention to the millions of migrants who move between developing countries.
Indeed, my own research at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development has for years highlighted that “south-south migration” should be a key concern for policymakers. South-south migrants are often especially vulnerable for two reasons.
First, they tend to be poorer than migrants heading to the north (regional or cross-border migration generally being cheaper). Second, they often suffer worse living conditions and wellbeing because they have limited or no access to social protection, social services, or legal and political channels in host countries – which might be richer than migrants’ home countries, but none the less struggle to provide these services even to their own population.
South-south migration has major economic, social and political effects, but systematic and co-ordinated policy responses at the national and regional levels are still in short supply (Argentina’s progressive legislation being a notable exception). Donors from the north are reluctant to fund research that would help provide an evidence base for better policy responses to these realities. Do migrants have to jump US fences or enter Fortress Europe before rich countries take note of their plight?
Katja Hujo
Geneva, Switzerland
Patient on the assembly line
Jackie Ashley’s column, Patients’ voices being heard (11 October), about the NHS actively soliciting advice from the people it treats, reminds me that things could be better. The art of listening needs time and effort, and there is no time.
The social worker comes and hears my voice, and the services that are needed by my wife, who remains alone at home, fall into place efficiently. The dietician comes and hears my voice: a conversation that shows her interest and endures after my discharge. The consultant medical officer arrives by my bed with his team. My invitation to “Come and talk with me” goes unheeded. He remains standing and friendly and superior.
Computers line the walls of the passage outside the ward. I punch the keyboard, but a message tells me that “Access to this site is blocked by policy of the Department of Health”. So I worry whether I need to shuffle a few bank accounts to pay my bills. I am insulated from the world that sustains me.
But I am grateful for the staff and the young student nurses that put needles into me and measure me and talk with me, and to the tea lady even though she passes me by (nil by mouth).
On my last day, the young registrar breezes in with his retinue of young ladies with clipboards. He prods me. It does not hurt where he prods; and he gives me the welcome news that I can go home. But there is a hurt that persists, and his prod does not show it. He cannot understand it, so it is not there. He has not heard me. I am at the end of an assembly line.
Peter Hutten
Mount Kembla, NSW, Australia
Terrorists are also martyrs
As long as the United States and its allies bypass international law and national borders in pursuit of enemies, what grounds can they have for condemning those enemies and others who do the same?
The US is among 32 countries that have signed but not ratified the 2002 Rome statute setting up the international criminal court. In the absence of due process, one party’s terrorist will remain another’s martyr or freedom fighter in a bloody cycle of targeted killings, suicide attacks and massacres in markets, churches and mosques.
In this global theatre of cruelty, supposed upholders of international law and convention combine with those who never gave a damn, as in the sort of farce that you now report from Libya (Twin raids on terror suspects, 11 October).
In the rubble of our US-led regime change, a suspected terrorist is abducted by US special forces, a move countered almost as we read of it by the abduction and release of the Libyan prime minister … by rival rebel militants, or “special forces” as they may prefer to call themselves.
Greg Wilkinson
Swansea, UK
Sceptics muddy the waters
Will Hutton’s comment on the likely reaction of the climate change sceptics to the IPCC’s fifth assessment report reminded me of the tobacco industry’s behaviour some five decades earlier (Our planet needs us to fight for its survival, 27 September). Hutton predicts that the sceptics will not deny global warming but will muddy the waters by advancing alternative theories unrelated to human activity as being the cause. As a result governments will be deterred from taking serious affirmative actions.
In the mid-1960s the US surgeon general categorically declared that tobacco causes lung cancer and heart disease. For three decades the industry funded huge campaigns to cast doubt on these findings, which delayed the adoption of changes in most western countries that we now take for granted, such as smoke-free public places, no smoking on airlines etc. Even today, though, we still have that most absurd of international travel concessions: duty-free tobacco.
David Coy
Hamilton, New Zealand
• Martin Plaut reports (20 September) that great underground water reserves have been found in a poor and underdeveloped region of Kenya. That’s certainly good news but I am curious to see who will benefit. Will it be the local people? Or will it, more likely, be agricultural businesses that have their eye on exportable cash crops (such as cut flowers, sugar or biofuel) that leave the local population brutally sidelined, often with internal or external migration being the only paths open to them. Let’s wait and see.
Alan Mitcham
Cologne, Germany
• Of course the young are worse off than their parents (18 October), which is as it must be. We of the parents’ generation have been living off the capital of the Earth’s resources while the young will have to live more off its sustainable income.
Adrian Betham
London, UK
• Toby Helm’s blow-by-blow reporting ringside at the British party conferences reads as if right off the sports pages: “The highlight came in a row with the redoubtable Tory Eurosceptic Bill Cash. Both tried to out-sceptic the other. . . [Ukip’s Farage] snarling that the veteran Tory had sold out” (18 October). As in the US, British politics is fast becoming a full-contact sport – especially with the Daily Mail’s below-the-belt feint at Ralph Miliband.
R M Fransson
Denver, Colorado, US
• Suzanne Moore’s piece on David Bowie (11 October) is more worthy of Private Eye’s Pseuds Corner than a place in the Guardian Weekly. Maybe her reading matter has been limited to a bit of Mantel and Byatt and a touch of Hornby and Self. And talking of self, the article certainly wallowed in it, dinnit?
E Slack
L’Isle Jourdain, France


Environment Minister Owen Paterson, seemingly encouraged by his spectacular failure to deliver on an ill-advised badger cull, is ploughing on regardless, with an extension to the original six-week plan in Somerset and probably Gloucester (if it survives a legal challenge from the Badger Trust). 
Meanwhile, his leader is plotting to ease restrictions on hunting via the back door. If he succeeds, farmers would gain the right to slaughter whatever wildlife they deem to be a nuisance (does this include ramblers ?) with a pack of hounds. Life in the countryside would become intolerable for the majority of rural dwellers.
Little by little this bunch of ministerial countryside vandals is destroying all that we hold dear. Owen Paterson has a vision of massive American-style factory farms, fields full of GM crops, fracking plants, and a free rein to pursue his sporting activities, as enjoyed by the rich and ignorant.
As large country estates expand and capitalise on the ever-growing band of City boys happy to spend their profits on shooting weekends, the ordinary peace-loving folk are further marginalised.
If this government remains in power, we will no longer see farm animals grazing in green fields; there will be “no go” areas where snares and hounds trap and kill any wildlife and domestic pets that roam into their path. Only cage-reared game birds, released in their millions every autumn, and tamed to the degree that they practically walk up the gun barrel, will colour our landscape.
It is within our power to restore the rural idyll we know and love to its former glory by voting at the next election.
Jill Deane, Staveley, Cumbria
How free are  free schools?
The furore over free schools raises the question: “How free are they in reality?” True they are not required to follow the so-called but misnamed National Curriculum, but they are subject to the national testing regime which closely reflects that curriculum.
So their curriculum is inevitably constrained. Genuinely “free” schools would be exempt from national assessments, but would their supporters, including Michael Gove, really advocate that degree of freedom? 
Professor Colin Richards, Spark Bridge, Cumbria
In order to allay parents’ justifiable concerns over free schools, all Michael Gove has to do is publish the details of the numbers of teachers in free schools, together with their qualifications and whether they have been CRB checked. The trouble is the DfE don’t hold that information. I am afraid that this is a child-protection nightmare, as has been illustrated in the  al-Madinah affair.
Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh, Essex
If I use the services of a lawyer, accountant, medic, surveyor, or cleric, I expect her or him to have a recognised professional qualification; why shouldn’t I expect the same from the teacher of my children, regardless of the kind of school they attend?
Geoffrey Baker-Hytch, Wells,  Somerset
Need to know about religion
I warmly welcome the article on religious literacy in Saturday’s Independent, and the reported comments of Aaqil Ahmed.
High-quality religious education should not only be every pupil’s entitlement, but should also be seen by everyone as an essential part of a pupil’s preparation for adult life in today’s world. The Secretary of State for Education has acknowledged that religious education in schools has been accidentally but significantly harmed by the impact of some of his initiatives, and we look forward to his taking meaningful steps to address that situation.
In the interests of truth and clarity, and as a non-Jew, may I respectfully point out that elsewhere in the article the important word “oral” was omitted from the answer to Q7 of the mini-quiz “Are you a religious ignoramus?” Traditional Judaism holds that Moses received from God both the Torah now found in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, and also a supplementary Torah handed down orally for many centuries.
This supplementary oral Torah does not begin to emerge in written form until well into the Common Era, and it is this, plus a wealth of Rabbinic commentary, which constitutes the Talmud. I choose my words carefully, as this is a debated and sensitive area. I just wonder how far The Independent’s own staff were up to speed here.
On a separate matter, Aaqil Ahmed claims that general ignorance is one factor in why there is a lack of humour relating to the world of Islam, for example the figure of Muhammad, in the public domain. True perhaps, up to a point, and “political correctness” may be a factor too, but so also may be an awareness that such humour is frequently being met with riots and death threats by those who do not get the joke.
Rev Prebendary Michael Metcalf,  Chair, Staffordshire Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education, Stafford
Aaqil Ahmed bemoans the lack of religious knowledge among the younger generation. One could as well regret loss of knowledge of the tales of King Arthur, of the Norse Gods or of the great corpus of European folk tales as sampled by Grimm, Anderson and Lönnrot, which, to my mind, are in every way as valid and important as those found in the Hebrew Bible. 
The study of comparative religion is indeed important in the understanding of many of the difficulties and disasters that beset modern civilisation and should probably start with The Golden Bough, but should be seen as a branch of anthropology or psychology rather than being a way towards any sort of objective truth.  
The world needs to grow up and escape from religion, and in Western Europe we have made a good start but are still much troubled by the dying throes of religions in other societies.
David Wheeler, Carlisle
Sorry for these crazy Americans
I am just an average 28-year-old American. I am writing to you to offer a little insight into why the United States just went through its government shutdown debacle and risked a debt default.
Let me apologise  to your country for the threat our political constipation may have caused you. Here in the US a new political faction has arisen calling itself the Tea Party, a bizarre group that believes we should fetishise the word “freedom”, and that any form of taxation is sordid and evil. Attempting to reason with them is not often possible, since they just start screaming and call you a traitor, often while dressed in 18th-century colonial attire.
And while polls indicate that Americans hold the Republican Party more responsible than other factions for the recent government shutdown, it is the tedious refrain of many American to blame the “boys in Washington”, rather than the Tea Party lunatics like Senator Ted Cruz, whenever there is a problem.
Robert Heltzel, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Anne Waddingham (letter, 18 October) is surprised that “coronated” hasn’t been OEDificated yet. Of course, English is a developing language, but a large amount of people are making grammatical errors these days. It’s a phenomena that’s spreading like a virulent bacteria, and seemingly less people are worried about it than they used to. But is there a single reliable criteria we can use to decide when a particular use should be OEDificated?
Francis Kirkham, Crediton, Devon
Long life
Nigel Priestnall (letter, 17 October) believes that the leaflets he receives suggest that “someone appears to know my death is imminent”. Not so. Insurance companies make their money out of people who don’t claim. They must expect him to be around for a while yet, so they can have the chance of selling him more insurance.
Roger Calvert, Ulverston, Cumbria
In the wings
Why the large headline spread (and the loaded term “shuns”) in reporting Peter O’Toole’s decision not to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations at the National Theatre (21 October)? An 81-year-old retired gentleman would be well advised not to subject himself to a heavily tiring day of ceremonies. Let’s keep things in perspective, please.
Roy Evans, Harpenden, Hertfordshire
Nuclear burden on the future
It may be time to revisit the debate about the generation of electricity from civilian nuclear plants, now that EDF and China have a green light to construct  Hinkley C, and the nuclear lobby can speak of a further 12 such projects. 
We should seriously consider the views of experts who say that, after Fukushima, the environmental risks are simply too great. As the existing hundreds of tonnes of nuclear waste remain an issue, it is clear that no country, including the US, has made provision for permanent storage of nuclear waste.
It is OK apparently to let the Chinese pay for the construction of nuclear plants and EDF to profit from the electricity produced, without reference to the escalating and unquantifiable costs of waste disposal and decommissioning. Intergenerational justice demands that we do not saddle future generations with storage problems and environmental hazards to which no solution has yet been found.
Frank Campbell
I can think of many claims made by the nuclear industry that have proved to be not true. 
1960: It is safe to dump nuclear waste in 40-gallon drums in the deep oceans.
1965: Dungeness B will produce electricity too cheap to meter.
1978: Thorp plant will turn nuclear waste into nuclear fuel.
1979: The building of Heysham B would put Britain in the forefront of the world’s nuclear power station building nations. Now we ask the French and Chinese to build one for us. 
This is not a good record and we should not trust any nuclear industry now. Particularly laughable is the claim that nuclear power stations are needed to keep the lights on. Just one barrage on the River Severn could give us almost as much electricity as Sizewell B. 
R F Stearn
Old Newton,  Suffolk
So David Cameron’s definition of UK energy security is to depend on electricity from a French state-owned organisation and to bribe the Chinese?
Anna Taylor
Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex
I am so happy at the thought that in 30 years energy bills will be affordable. The trick is, how do we stay warm until then?
Steven Calrow


Many plans to reform our current tax system seem to rely on taxing the middle classes to the point where they might as well not have bothered to save
Sir, Yugo Kovach (letter, Oct 19) attacks pensions and ISAs as unfair state tax subsidies for the middle class which should be withdrawn to fund a State-sponsored pension for all. His attack on the tax status of pensions and ISAs is one-sided.
Pension contributions are tax deductible but pension payments are taxable; while within the “wrapper” of the pension gains are not taxed but losses are not tax deductible. Payments into an ISA receive no tax relief and withdrawals from an ISA are not taxed; while within the wrapper of the ISA gains are not taxed but losses receive no tax relief. What is unfair about that?
To cite ISAs worth £1million as examples is misleading. Anyone with such a sum has been extraordinarily lucky with their investments. There will be far more ISAs with less in them than was invested. Citing £550,000 as some sort of typical middle-class pension pot will make many of the middle class ruefully wish “if only”.
As with many other plans to reform our current tax system, Mr Kovach’s plan seems to rely on taxing the middle classes to the point where they might as well not have bothered to save for their retirement. What happens when the middle classes stop bothering?
Andrew Carter

Sir, Like Julian Pilcher (letter, Oct 21) I have two pensions. One a self-invested personal pension (SIPP) and one from the State. I have contributed my own money into my SIPP fund which my independent financial adviser manages very successfully. However, my annual drawdown this year, eg, my annual pension, has been reduced by 46 per cent because the amount I am allowed to draw down is based on the yield on 15-year gilts, which has dropped below any level anticipated by the government when it instigated the SIPP structure. Hence I have a pot of money which I cannot access, and live on reduced earnings.
The inflexibility of the government has damaged the pension concept, not the City.
Tim Lowden
Longstock, Hants

Sir, Julian Pilcher complains that his contributions to his state pension have not provided as big a pot as if he had invested it himself. But his contributions were used to provide money for the pensioners, not to build up his own pension. Thus the state pension he now receives is paid for by taxpayers. It is indeed a benefit. Whether it would have been better, from his viewpoint, had the universal state pension never been introduced, is quite another matter.
Stewart Reuben

Sir, Prince Charles and others miss the main target (report, Oct 17, and leading article, Oct 18). Governments in various parts of the world have deliberately legislated for short-termism in funded pension provision.
The real answer is to urge the Government to renew and encourage defined benefit or final salary schemes, suitably adapted to modern conditions.
Tim Moore
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy Oxford

The proposals included in the Housing Standards Review will lead to an increase in crime, especially domestic burglaries
Sir, Housing standards in England are under review. This is long overdue because the very many local and national standards, overlapping and sometimes contradictory, are an obstacle to the ability of developers to provide much-needed new homes.
Standards for home security form part of the Housing Standards Review. However, as they stand the proposals will lead to an increase in crime, especially domestic burglary, in new developments, with the consequent flight from crime-ravaged areas by those who can afford to do so and consequent increased area disparities in rates of crime. There is now ample evidence that good home security is associated with lower rates of crime, both at the level of the individual home and at that of the surrounding street. Neglecting this evidence in new residential developments is short-termism of the crassest kind.
We urge the Government to reconsider home security standards, with the emphasis on simplicity. All new homes should have good levels of inbuilt security measures that have been thoroughly tested.
Dr Rachel Armitage, Reader in Criminology, University of Huddersfield; Dr Jyoti Belur, Senior Research Associate, University College London; Professor Wim Bernasco, Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement; Dr Daniel Birks, Research Fellow, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security; Dr Herve Borrion, Deputy Director, JDI Doctoral Training Centre, University College London; Professor Kate Bowers, Professor of Crime Science, University College London; Dr Gregory Breetzke, Senior Lecturer in Geography, University of Canterbury, NZ; Professor Sharon Chamard, Associate Professor of Justice, University of Alaska Anchorage; Dr Joe Clare, Research Fellow, University of Western Australia; Professor Ron Clarke, Rutgers University; Phil Cleary, CEO, Smartwater Group; Dr Paul Cozens, Curtin University; Professor John Eck, Professor of Criminal Justice, Cincinnati University; Dr Henk Eiffers, Senior Researcher, Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement; Professor Paul Ekblom, Professor of Design against Crime, Central St Martins College; Professor Graham Farrell, Simon Fraser University, Professor Marcus Felson, Texas State University; Dr Garner Clancey, Director, Sydney Institute of Criminology; Professor Martin Gill, Director, Perpetuity Research; Professor Elizabeth Groff, Temple University; Dr Louis Grove, Lecturer in Criminology, Loughborough University; Dr Cory Habermann, Temple University; Professor Pieter Hartel, Professor of Computer Science, University of Twente; Dr Bill Hebenton, Senior Lecturer, Manchester University; Professor Alex Hirshfield, Professor of Criminology, University of Huddersfield; Professor Stefan Holgersson, Linkoping University; Professor Mike Hough, Birkbeck, University of London; Professor Shane Johnson, Professor of Crime Science, University College London; Professor Marianne Junger, Professor of Crime Science, University of Twente; Professor Bryan Kinney, Director, CURS Laboratory, Simon Fraser University; Professor Johannes Knuttson, Professor of Police Research, Norwegian Police University College; Professor Gloria Laycock, Professor of Crime Science, University College London; Professor James LeBeau, Southern Illinois University; Dr Jessica Li Chi Mai, City University of Hong Kong; Professor Tamara Madensen, University of Nevada Las Vegas; Professor Michael Maxfeild, John Jay College of Criminal Justice CUNY; Professor Eric McCord, University of Louisville; Dr Lorena Montoya, Senior Researcher, University of Twente; Professor Frank Morgan, Crime Research Centre, University of Western Australia; Professor Kate Moss, Professor of Law, Wolverhampton University; Professor Mangai Natarajan, John Jay College of Criminal Justice CUNY; Dr Andrew Newton, Senior Research Fellow, University of Huddersfield; Professor Troy Payne, University of Alaska Anchorage; Professor Ken Pease, Visiting Professor and Fellow, University College London; Professor Stephen Pires, Florida International University; Dr Ethel Quayle, Senior Lecturer, Edinburgh University; Professor Janet Ransley, Griffith University; Professor Jerry Ratcliffe, Temple University; Professor George Rengert, Temple University; Dr Nicholas Ridley, Senior Lecturer in Policing and Security, London Metropolitan University; Dr Jason Roach, Reader in Criminology, University of Huddersfield; Mr Nick Ross, Journalist and Broadcaster; Professor Kim Rossmo, Professor of Criminology, Texas State University; Dr Stijn Ruiter, Senior Researcher, Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement; Dr Rachel Santos, Florida Atlantic University; Dr Roberto Santos, Commander Professional Standards Division, Port St Lucie Police Department; Professor Christopher Sedelmaier, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, New Haven University; Dr Aiden Sidebottom, Lecturer in Crime Science, University College London; Professor Stephen Smallbone, Professor of Criminology, Griffith University; Professor Brian Smith, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, New Haven University; Professor Willam Sousa, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Nevada Las Vegas; Professor Lucia Summers, Texas State University; Professor Maxwell Taylor, Professor of Terrorism Studies, St Andrews University; Professor Nick Tilley, Nottingham Trent University; Dr Mike Townsley, Senior Lecturer, Griffith University; Professor Andromachi Tseloni, Professor of Quantitative Criminology, Loughborough University; Professor David Weisburd, George Mason University; Professor Richard Wortley, Director, Jill Dando Institute, University College London; Leanne Monchuk, Research Assistant, University of Huddersfield.

The middle-class advantage is somewhere between three and four times, not 15, and much also depends on the IQ of the child (and its parents)
Sir, I disagree with Philip Collins’s claim that “a child born into the middle class is 15 times more likely to live a middle-class life as an adult than a child born on the same day to working-class parents” (Opinion, Oct 18). The middle-class advantage, confirmed by a variety of sociological studies, is somewhere between three and four times, not 15.
It’s also worth noting that much of this difference in chances of gaining middle-class entry can be explained by differences in average IQ levels between children born to bright, successful parents and those born to less bright, unsuccessful ones.
The article’s sub-heading, “Britain is now a country where it is extremely hard to break out of poverty” is also misleading, given that 80 per cent of children who grow up in homes under the poverty line escape poverty by the time they reach adulthood.
Peter Saunders
Professorial Research Fellow, Civitas

The way to remove all fear and doubt is to stand up and speak Shakespeare aloud in its proper context — that is, in performance
Sir, Libby Purves (“Reciting Shakespeare is good for you, bruv”, Oct 21) is right about Shakespeare’s language. The way to remove all fear and doubt is to stand up and speak it aloud in its proper context — that is, in performance. The Shakespeare Schools Festival, of which I am a patron, helps pupils from 8 to 18 to do exactly what Julian Fellowes thinks is impossible, and understand from the inside the language Shakespeare himself wrote. This year 25,000 pupils from 1,000 schools across the UK
will rehearse and then perform an abridged, but not linguistically watered-down, version of a Shakespeare play in a local professional theatre, with
professional help.
Nothing so clearly demonstrates, to pupils, teachers, and observers alike, how Shakespeare’s language lives in the mouth and in the ear, and not merely in the eye. Why, you can even understand it without going
to Cambridge.
Philip Pullman

The special needs education policy that has led to the closure of so many specialist schools is flawed and ignores the needs of the many
Sir, I have an autistic son and well remember being told by an early school placement to “go home and put your feet up and stop worrying, he will settle in fine”, only to be phoned some time later to pick him up as they could not cope. So full marks to St Ambrose Barlow School (Oct 22) for its consideration of its other pupils. This case highlights the flaws in special needs education policy that have led to the closure of so many specialist schools — the policy has focused on inclusion in mainstream schools without providing the necessary funding.
Steve Parker
Ebley, Glos

SIR – The Government’s proposed three classes of rail travel should include first class, standard class and economy class. Standard class should be left as it is.
First class should be twice as expensive, with carriages resembling a first-class airport lounge: comfy seats and self-service for free drinks and snacks.
Economy class should be half the price of standard, with carriages designed like those in Tube trains: standing room for two rows and bench seating, able therefore to contain at least twice as many passengers.
John Drewry
Beckenham, Kent
SIR – You report: “Third class rail returns”. Did it ever go away?
Keith Chambers
Basingstoke, Hampshire
SIR – If third-class rail means paying less to sit on a hard seat than I paid yesterday to stand in second class, then it can only be a good idea.
R G Jackson
Stockport, Cheshire
SIR – Never mind the softness of the seats. Just make sure I’ve got one!
Mary Jeremiah
Swansea, Glamorgan

young scientist honoured by the Queen, along with 200 to 300 working colleagues, as she opened the first nuclear power station in the world at Calder Hall on October 27 1956.
Yesterday I read that the new station to be built at Hinkley Point will use French technology and Chinese finance.
British politicians and industrialists should be hanging their heads in shame.
Raymond Doldon
Formby, Lancashire
Related Articles
Third-class rail could double passenger capacity
22 Oct 2013
SIR – We are planning to spend £50 billion (probably closer to £70 billion) on a high-speed railway that we don’t need and can’t afford, and for which the business case is highly dubious.
We are about to pay the Chinese and French £14 billion for a new power station which we desperately need, in order that they can sell us electricity at an extortionate rate.
Alex Miles
Wokingham, Surrey
SIR – In 1917 at Manchester University Ernest Rutherford split the atom. Just under 100 years later this country hires a French company to build a nuclear power station with Chinese money.
Eric Slater
Hazel Grove, Cheshire
SIR – David Cameron’s party has spent hours in the Commons deriding the Blair administration’s system of Private Finance Initiatives for building hospitals, which made the eventual cost to the taxpayer many times what it would have been had the government financed them directly.
Is not the Cameron system of building nuclear power stations merely the Blair system by another name?
One really must compliment the financial whizz-kids behind a system that makes electricity consumers pay, and keeps the cost of the new power stations off any Government balance sheet.
John Jukes
Bosherston, Pembrokeshire
SIR – There is too much hysteria over the Government guaranteeing a price double the current level for electricity to EDF, the company building Hinkley Point nuclear power station.
Energy companies have just raised prices by over 8 per cent. An annual increase of 7.5 per cent over the 10 years until the start-up of these facilities would double the cost of electricity.
We have recently migrated from South Africa where, because of lack of government foresight, an emergency programme to build three new coal-fired power stations has increased the cost of electricity by more than 25 per cent a year.
Terry Nelson
Newbury, Berkshire
SIR – As we consumers are paying for it, the accounts for Hinkley Point power plant should be published on the internet each year until it has been dismantled.
George Herrick
Pendleton, Lancashire
Free schools
SIR – Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, seems to be saying that he is in favour of free schools as long as they do what the Government tells them.
Rev Philip Foster
Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire
SIR – Nick Clegg’s parents were able to choose a school that appointed teachers on merit rather than arcane state qualifications.
Likewise they chose a school that followed a curriculum to inspire rather than a nationally imposed straitjacket. Why does Mr Clegg want to deny to ordinary parents what his took for granted?
James Tooley
Professor of Education Policy
Newcastle University
SIR – As a former pupil of Nick Clegg’s old school, Westminster, I am amazed at his stance on unqualified teachers. After all, Westminster had a headmaster, Tristram Jones-Parry, who notably wanted to teach in the state sector but was prevented by the petty bureaucrats of the General Teaching Council.
Andrew Berkinshaw-Smith
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey
Learning conkers
SIR – When we asked the children in assembly whether they had ever played conkers, 95 per cent had never done so before, I would guess because their online games were more exciting, or because their parents hadn’t taught them. The children have picked the game up very quickly and love playing it in the playground. They have learnt a traditional game and their lives are all the better for it.
John Cattermole
Headteacher, Littleport Community Primary School
Littleport, Cambridgeshire
Supermarket waste
SIR – Why have we got food banks when Tesco and no doubt other supermarkets are scandalously throwing away tons of good food every day?
Anne Senneck
Hartley, Kent
SIR – Tesco factors the food it discards into the prices it charges the customer. We pay for what is thrown away. Having reduced waste, Tesco could either pass on the benefit to customers by also reducing its prices. Or, it could pocket its increased profits. Which will it be, I wonder?
Stephen Kemp
Tilton on the Hill, Leicestershire
Tracking history
SIR – Your report on Graham Robb’s work in attributing straight roads to the Celts comes 88 years late.
Dr Alfred Evans, of Hereford, made this clear in his book The Old Straight Track, published in 1925. This was the result of his very detailed work and observations of waystones and tracks, some of which date back to before 1300 BC, well before the founding of Rome.
John Pope
Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
Reinventing the rotor
SIR – Now that Sir James Dyson appears to be well on the way to producing a quiet hairdryer, do you think it might be possible for him to turn his attention to producing a quiet helicopter?
Peter Franklin
Woking, Surrey
European courts
SIR – Torquil Dick-Erikson explains just what is wrong with the European Court of Human Rights, but as long as Britain remains a member of the EU, there is no debate to be had.
Article 6 of the Lisbon Treaty states: “The Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU”. The Charter “reaffirms… the rights as they result from… the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Communities and of the European Court of Human Rights”.
So, while the ECHR is independent of the EU, member states are bound to accept its verdicts. We cannot ignore the ECHR without first leaving the EU.
Roger Smith
Shefford, Bedfordshire
Endless bureaucracy
SIR – I wonder if any readers could help with the following conundrum, set by BT on arranging broadband with them?
“Your first bill is now available online. Please note we no longer send paper bills. To access your bill you will need to activate your account. To do this, you will need your account number. Your account number can be found at the top of your bill.”
My account remains inactive.
Kevin Minter
Olney, Buckinghamshire
Facing the music
SIR – Richard Dyson’s report about piped music in Lloyds Bank and other public places is welcome. My local branch of Lloyds has been assailing us with this unwanted form of entertainment, as well as self-advertising on electronic screens, for several years. I doubt customers were consulted – I wasn’t.
Even in our doctor’s waiting room, the radio is always on. Perhaps service providers could offer earphones to those who want to listen, and leave the rest of us in peace.
Susan A Tricklebank
Predatory agenda
SIR – The Government plans to relax the Hunting Act to help sheep farmers. The BBC responds by developing a storyline on The Archers about stray foxhounds chasing sheep into a river. You couldn’t make it up.
Jamie Blackett
Arbigland, Dumfries and Galloway
Sorting out refuse at home – what a rubbish idea
SIR – Lord de Mauley says local authorities would have to follow the EU directive for better waste separation by supplying more bins (report, October 16). Am I the only person who feels this is back to front?
Surely, rather than local authorities investing huge sums in specialised vehicles and extra labour, not to mention numerous bins and sacks per household to carry out the current roadside collections, the focus ought to be on investment in plants at the recycling depots, to separate all waste into its constituent parts at that point.
Jon Booth
SIR – In Spain we recycle everything but have no bins of any colour at home. Waste is separated into food, plastics, bottles and paper. Our council here in Javea has bins both above and under ground at strategic corners about the town where everyone can leave their waste, in small quantities, when they leave the house. They are colour-coded so no mixture of recycling occurs. During the night when it is cooler, the bins are emptied – we never see this happening – and we don’t have to see the front of people’s homes adorned by the wheelie bins we tolerate in England.
Denise Boddington
Javea, Alicante, Spain
SIR – Having to cope with four recycling bins is very much what we refer to in my family as a “first-world problem”.
Mark Cosgrove
London SW11

Irish Times:
Sir, – It is interesting to see Archbishop Michael Jackson and others stick their heads above the parapet on such non-issues as supposedly-called “Polyester Protestants”. I have never heard that phrase in my parish.
I grew up in the Church of Ireland, but ironically, came to Christian faith outside it, thanks to the wishy-washy, endomorphic beliefs that pervade most of Anglicanism, in Southern Ireland. I tentatively re-entered the Church of Ireland seven years ago. The parish that I joined actually preaches, believes, and tries to live out, the gospel.
Which Church of Ireland parishes, in Southern Ireland, actually try to carry out Christ’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations . . .”? Perhaps, if the focus was more on the Bible, and less on past privileges and petty storms in vicarage tea-cups, we might have a more vigorous and dynamic church to offer to a hurting world. – Yours, etc,
Newtownpark Avenue,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – Perhaps Archbishop Jackson could reveal the names of the parishes with sectarian members, so that my “Polyester Protestant” wife and I can avoid them (Front page & Opinion, October 22nd). These parishes seem to be of a different church to that which we attend, which provided a warm welcome. I would also venture to say that my fellow parishioners most likely hold a representative range of national attitudes, including a small intolerant minority. – Yours, etc,
Brighton Terrace,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – At the Synod of the United Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough (Home News, October 16th), Archbishop Michael Jackson spoke of “exclusionary attitudes” and “sectarianism” within the Church of Ireland. Such alarming revelations prompt all members of the Church of Ireland in the Republic to reflect deeply, including myself.
Where do these “exclusionary” and “sectarian” attitudes subsist? Are they “alive” in the culturally and religiously diverse Church of Ireland ethos schools? Or at Holy Communion services where all are welcome to take communion? Or in the Church of Ireland parishes which allow their church buildings to be used for services by non-Reformed denominations? Or is it in the day-to-day interactions of members of the Church of Ireland with people from all backgrounds here in the Republic of Ireland? I think not.
Thankfully, it would appear that the belief that these attitudes hold any sway in the Church of Ireland, may only be found within the confines of the mind of the Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough, and hopefully they shall stay there, very far from reality, while the rest of us get on with it! – Yours, etc,
Upper Rathmines Road,
Dublin 6.
Sir, – I am really upset by his stirring up of sectarian hatred by repeating the alleged comments of a few people in such a public manner. Perhaps he should have preached and addressed this subject from the pulpit in the churches of the afflicted people first. If this is the best he can do I suggest that he return from whence he came and rejoin those clerics who share such righteous views and enjoy the divided community that thankfully we do not have in the Republic.
I had to read his article (Opinion, October 22nd) at least twice to try to get the drift: I failed, and I see it as a load of gobbledegook, again stirring it up. I see him as a Polyester Archbishop. – Yours, etc,
Castleside Drive,
Dublin 14.
Sir, – Archbishop Michael Jackson’s observations on “Facing up to Failings in Church of Ireland’s View of the other” (Opinion, October 22nd) come as no surprise to me, as they confirm many of the findings of survey research I conducted in 2009 as part of the Irish School of Ecumenics’ Visioning 21st Century Ecumenism research project.
The surveys, one of clergy and one of laypeople, revealed that such views are not limited to the Church of Ireland in the Republic, but rather remain endemic in most of our Christian denominations island-wide.
For example, one conclusion that could be drawn from the surveys is that most Christians on this island either overlook or deny sectarianism. While we did not ask specifically about sectarianism, we included questions about “reconciliation”. As many Christians on this island are aware, “reconciliation” work has often been advanced as a mechanism to overcome sectarianism.
But overwhelmingly, both clergy and laity thought of reconciliation in very individual terms (between individuals and God or between individuals), with most failing to see “social” forms of reconciliation (between Catholics and Protestants, between people of other religions, and between people of different ethnicities) as important.
Further, while most churches (especially in the Republic) reported ethnic minorities and immigrants in their congregations, 44 per cent of clergy said that they had never done something to accommodate them.
There are of course sterling exceptions to these trends in individual parishes and congregations. But I agree with Jackson that there are underlying patterns of exclusion and (at best) a systematic failure to see diversity as a gift rather than a burden.
Towards the end of his reflections, Jackson recommends that the Church of Ireland return to its “Hard Gospel” project. The Hard Gospel, which wound down around 2009, focused on overcoming sectarianism and approaching diversity positively. In terms of its quality of content and its reach, the Hard Gospel is the most impressive such programme ever attempted by a denomination on this island.
But since the initiative has ended, it is unclear that champions of anti-sectarianism and embracing diversity have emerged among clergy and laypeople in local parishes to carry the vision forward. From informal conversations, I have also gathered that some people think the project unintentionally replicated the stereotypical view that sectarianism is a “Northern problem” and diversity is a “Southern Problem”.
Even more concerning, in our surveys, we asked clergy whether their denomination or wider religious community had provided them with adequate training or resources for promoting reconciliation.
While 52 per cent of clergy overall said that they had received adequate training for promoting reconciliation, the least likely to say that they had were from the Church of Ireland, at just 31 per cent. While this finding requires further investigation, I wonder did the Hard Gospel alert Church of Ireland clergy to just how challenging it is to overcome sectarianism and handle diversity positively – making them realise that they need more help?
If so, a sequel to the Hard Gospel would not be a bad place to start. – yours, etc,
Assistant Prof in Conflict
Resolution & Reconciliation,
Irish School of Ecumenics,
Trinity College Dublin,
Antrim Road,
Sir, – Archbishop Michael Jackson bemoans the fact that members of the Anglican communion who lived in what is now the Republic of Ireland who fought for Britain in both world wars were “shunned as ‘disloyalists’ ”, going on to live “lives of public and private shame”. Those who fought in the first World War, and who were not of the nationalist tradition, fought for king and country as they saw it and had nothing for which to be ashamed.
However the situation of those who fought for Britain during the second World War was entirely different. The Irish Free State had been in existence for nearly 20 years at the start of that conflict. All people living in that area owed their allegiance to Ireland, and Ireland only.
We had our own Defence Force and, to their credit, many Protestants chose to serve Ireland and some suffered for so doing. A brother officer of mine in later years, a farmer’s son and staunch Anglican all his life, was thrown out of the house and disinherited for joining the Irish Army.
I grew up among Protestants on the Hill of Howth. Finer, more decent people you could not hope to meet. The problem was that, despite being Irish born and bred, their allegiance was to England. At the start of the war the Anglican congregation asked their minister, Canon Armstrong, to have the national anthem played every Sunday after service. The following Sunday, to their horror, the strains of Amhrán na bhFiann sounded from the organ. Enraged, most of the congregation decamped to another parish and stayed away for many years.
If such people “lived lives of shame” they had only themselves to blame. – Yours, etc,
Essenwood Road,
South Africa.

Sir, – According to Department of Social Protection’s research, 75 per cent of those receiving social welfare would be better off financially in work (Front page, October 22nd). Another article showed there were about 18,000 training and education places for young job-seekers, yet the total number unemployed for four months or more aged 25 and under was over double that at 41,000.
These two facts significantly question the Government’s rationale for cutting social welfare payments for those aged 25 and under from next year. The supposed rationale was that these cuts would incentivise young people to find employment or take up education placements. The reality is there is a complete shortage of jobs available. The Nevin Economic Research Institute found there were 32 people available for work for every vacancy in the country in 2012.
What’s even more galling is the fact that while on placements such as JobBridge, participants receive a basic social welfare payment and an allowance, meaning the government has significantly reduced the income of those participating on these schemes. From next January, someone aged 18 to 25 and under will receive a maximum payment of €3.75 for working a 40 hour week on JobBridge. The Government should be striving to reduce the social protection budget by focusing on job creation rather than unfairly scapegoating the unemployed. – Yours, etc,
Pampas Grove, The Rise,
Bishopstown, Cork.

Sir, – I would like to put on record that not just I, but all university Senators from both universities over many years have urged the Government to use the power granted by the people by referendum in 1979 to extend the university franchise. However, this will present technical problems. There is the question of how flexible the definition of a university/third level institution will be.
I have always favoured the retention of the distinctive character of the two existing constituencies with the current Dublin university panel taking in all the Dublin-centred institutions such as DCU, DIT, etc, and UL, WIT,etc, going in with the National University panel, but this may prove itself problematical by exacerbating the existing disproportionality of numbers. Critically the matter of the preparation of an accurate register for what will be gigantic constituencies, the current combined register already containing approximately 200,000 details, will have to be faced.
Second, and most importantly, I believe the almost universally agreed notion that the Seanad should become the primary processor of EU legislation would need to be approached with great caution. Many people, including some Senators, may have no conception of the enormous volume of legal instruments gushing out of the Brussels bureaucracy almost hourly.
In order to deal with this adequately, the Senate would require the back-up of a skilled secretariat with at least one official from each department of Government to sift through the bulk of material for only appropriate matters for consideration by Seanad Éireann. To take on such an important task and fail through lack of resources would be disaster. Moreover, an undue load would distort the Senate’s constitutional remit of examining, refining and amending domestically generated legislation and introducing measures of social reform at which despite its imperfections it has proved remarkable successful in the past.
Two reform bills are already before the house and will provide a useful basis for discussion, but both were almost entirely the work of anonymous legal experts and researchers although they did take into account ideas from previous Senate debates. It is now the responsibility of Senators themselves to participate significantly in the debate.
Suggestions have been made that Senators’ pay should be cut in half or that they should work for nothing. I understand the appeal of such suggestions during a period of economic hardship, but I believe such an approach is dangerous. First, only those who could afford to do so would be able to stand for election so that far from democratising the process a new elite based on wealth would be created. There have also been rumblings in the media about expenses which have been justified by the behaviour of a very small number of members in both houses and which I understand, however I believe these matters of remuneration should be referred to an independent authority for adjudication. I personally would favour the abolition of all expenses, vouched and unvouched, and their replacement by a wage calculated to take into account what actual and realistic expenses are likely to be incurred. This would be clearly open, taxable and accountable to the public, everyone would get the same wage and the waste of time energy and paper on bean-counting pettifoggery would be avoided. – Yours, etc,
St Vincent’s Hospital,
Merrion Road, Dublin 4.

Sir, – Last October the digital switch over to the excellent Saorview was very well communicated over many months. However, without notice this week the service changed, due to tuning changes for 600,000 householders. In practice for many non-technical customers the RTÉ1 channel will have disappeared.
It may be “free” but surely Saorview users deserve better customer service?
Bushy Park Road,

Sir, – In an otherwise well-researched article, which debunks many myths about teachers’ pay, Louise Holden (Education, October 22nd), unfortunately perpetuates another myth in suggesting the “Croke Park Agreement” was, in some way, responsible for the 10 per cent reduction in pay imposed upon new entrants into the public service after 2010.
In fact, the then Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, imposed this cut in an unilateral action, which was opposed by all public service unions. At the very first opportunity, in the so called “Croke Park 2” discussions and, ultimately, in the Haddington Road Agreement, public service unions made this a priority and succeeded in ensuring that all of those recruited since 2010 will now be enabled to reach the same salary maxima as their longer-serving colleagues. – Yours, etc,
Secretary, Public Services
Irish Congress of Trade

Sir, – Taking away the telephone rent allowance for the elderly in the recent Budget is “the unkindest cut of all”, and shows a lack of compassion and shabby treatment of medical card holders, for many of whom the telephone is a lifeline to health, safety and security.
Many elderly people do not have a mobile phone, and even for those who have, failing eyesight, advancing age and feebleness render its use difficult, if not impossible.
Moreover, a social alarm unit is plugged into both electric, and telephone sockets, hence a landline phone is one absolute necessity. – Yours, etc,

A chara, – Tim Callan is correct in his assertion that examples may not be representative (Business This Week, October18th). The primary reason the particular example he has given is unrepresentative is that it directly compares the cuts suffered by older people with those endured by the young unemployed and other cohorts.
There is an inherent danger in comparing and contrasting older people’s benefits with those given to other generations. Pensioners, by and large, have no further capacity to earn and their social transfers are provided to provide them with an adequate standard of living for the rest of their lives. All going well, our children and grandchildren will work again and will reap the benefits of Ireland’s eventual recovery.
Until that day, comparing the cuts suffered by pensioners with hardships endured by those of other generations serves only to create a sense of intergenerational strife. Budget 2014 was not ageist, nor was it unfairly directed on pensioners alone. Instead, it was a scathing attack on the marginalised. The old, the young, and the sick must rally together after these latest savage cuts, lest we all hang separately. – Is mise,
Information & Networking

Irish Independent:
* ‘Modern History’, less than 100 years old, is our ruination. It retards our country and inflicts on our new-age, progressive youth unwanted and negative tales of the past.
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In Ireland we go back on the 1916 Rising and the Civil War and the shocking stories it unfolds. On Tuesday night (October 15) on RTE 1, we had Eddie Hobbs reiterating all the sordid facts in ‘My Civil War’. The grief and hurt and tears shed among those concerned were still very real and obvious.
I recall from youth my father or mother talking of the ‘Dev’ lads or the ‘blueshirts’. I also remember new headstones that were erected to neighbours, shot down in cold blood, by their own neighbours or relatives – consequent to that brutal and unnecessary 1921 Civil War. No disrespect to the unfortunate dead – but negotiation, not bloodshed, is always the best way forward.
Perpetuating this emotive negativity are the names of our parties in Government and sometimes their conduct – likewise with local Government.
Our Taoiseach Enda Kenny promises radical reform of the entire Oireachtas before the next General Election. To complete a job of true democracy, I suggest Mr Kenny gets rid of party titles such as Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Sinn Fein, IRA and similar passion-inciting names forever. They are distasteful and past their shelf life. Other countries don’t have them.
Politicians should no longer have the power to induce voters to choose representatives on the grounds of sham patriotism or party affiliations, rather than personal abilities, qualifications and experience.
Call the new parties Progressive Democrats, Modern Conservatives, Workers United, Christian Modernists or what you may.
Forget the ‘patronising and past glories’ element. We want a strong, capable and progressive new government, untarnished and carrying no baggage.
James Gleeson
Thurles, Co Tipperary
* The recent employment of pepper spray by the gardai in crowd control has prompted me to suggest a more imaginative and less wasteful use of pepper and allied condiments.
One of the delights of my life has been the experience of a pizza in a good Italian restaurant, particularly when the waiter approaches with an obscenely large pepper mill, declaring invitingly, “Pepper, sir?” My response is invariably a resounding, “Please.” The ritual reception of pepper intensifies an already ecstatic experience.
Since I can no longer afford the delights of eating out, I am reduced to the takeaway world, where I occasionally treat myself and my wife to a pizza in a cardboard container. Here you have pizza without the encounter with the pepper mill or the grated parmesan cheese.
I have suggested that gardai should be located close to the pizza takeaway outlets. Those emerging from the premises should be asked if they require pepper, thus compensating for the absence of the giant pepper mill. The gardai are already trained in dispensing pepper; their pepper services would have a profound influence on relationships between them and the communities they serve, who already see them as the salt of the earth.
I can see no good reason why the gardai cannot also dispense grated parmesan cheese from a hollowed-out baton.
I have surveyed a sample of the Dublin population, who expressed resounding approval for this idea.
The proprietors of Chinese and Indian carry-out facilities thought the service could be easily adapted to enhance what they provide. It was suggested that there was no good reason why the gardai could not come armed with curry, soy sauce, mango chutney and related Chinese and Indian condiment sprays.
My ideas have been taken on board by the exceptionally creative Garda Commissioner, who promises that the already formed special unit, Gardai Piobar agus Cais (PCs), will soon be fulfilling its culinary duties.
Philip O’Neill
* Please allow me to agree wholeheartedly with James Cassidy MPSI (Letters, Oct 19). I have had to make a decision about which of my 12 monthly painkillers I must drop to save paying this terrible 2.50 per item tax.
As a person who is reliant on the minimum state illness benefit, this tax makes a huge difference to the sick, elderly and disabled who are, more often than not, also on this minimum weekly payment. I urge the Minister for Health to reverse this unjust tax that penalises the most vulnerable in our society.
Niall Cunneen
Corbally, Limerick city
* Being a disabled person, I feel a right to proclaim that, as of now, my beloved Ireland is no place for the elderly, the youth, the most vulnerable and all other hard-working people after this week’s Budget. Because we’re the people being forced to pay the price for political skullduggery and the corruption of the bankers.
I’m angry, as each and every one of those unaccountable scoundrels has walked away scot-free without suffering the repercussions for their wrongful deeds. I can’t recall how often I heard my late father, God rest him, saying that this could be a great little country if it wasn’t so corrupt at the top. Good God, how right he was.
It’s annoying and disgraceful, as I am of the opinion now that in being an honest person, you are quickly doomed to become a victim of your noble beliefs. The status quo will remain until ordinary honest citizens begin working in unity to protest and object against this present political regime of impoverishment.
Mattie Greville
Co Westmeath
* The removal of the monstrous concrete plinth outside Dublin City Hall would seem to indicate that, at last, commonsense has prevailed in Dublin City Council. Now can they push on and send their demolition equipment to O’Connell Street and complete the job of restoring this once great thoroughfare to its former majesty?
Start with the ugliest building, which is the CIE structure. Then move on to the now-derelict County Council offices. After that, they can cross the street to the former telecoms building and take that down as well.
While they’re at it, they can remove the homage to Dublin’s drug culture (the spike!) and restore the Pillar to its former glory. Only this time instead of Admiral Nelson can we have heroes of our own, in the shape of Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean? What could be better than to have these two great Irishmen atop of Dublin’s tallest structure looking South? Let’s be having you, Dublin City Council.
Eddie Naughton
Dublin 8
* Recent government spin claims the creation of 30,000 (mostly part-time) jobs per year.
CSO figures show that of the 50,000 emigrating last year, 50pc left full-time employment, and 12.5pc left part-time employment. Simple maths show us that 62.5pc of 50,000 is 31,250. So people leave and their jobs are re-filled. Numbers don’t lie – people do.
Our eldest daughter leaves a three-day-week job next Monday, and is Australia-bound. Her position is to be re-filled. Enda and Eamon, you have now created 30,001 jobs.
Kevin Bailey
Tallanstown, Co Louth
Irish Independent

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